Manchester United have arguably the best youth development system in the Premier League and have time and again unearthed little gems through their coaching system in Carrington. United youngsters have been quite successful in tournaments such as the Milk Cup and the reserves have been ever-ready to step onto the big stage and grab any opportunities that come their way. Federico Macheda and Johnny Evans are two prime examples from recent years. Injuries to first-team players gave these two youngsters their breaks and they made the maximum use of those chances to cement their spots in the Red Devils side.
Here’s a look ahead to what the Manchester United side could look like (barring any major acquisitions) in just over a couple of years from now.
First, a list of players who are likely to leave/retire:
Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Owen. While the first four names are expected departures, Rio could well be out soon, along with the two Owen’s. Ferdinand will turn 32 this season and recurring injuries could well force the centre-back to call it quits a bit earlier than expected. Owen Hargreaves will be 30 in January and having missed the best part of 2 years with knee and other injuries, Hargreaves could face a scuppered career as well. Michael Owen has not been the same since that freak injury at the 2006 World Cup and could very well be forced into early retirement by recurring hamstring issues.
Dimitar Berbatov, Park ji Sung, Mame Biram Diouf and Anderson are players whom I believe will leave OT over the next couple of years.
Youngsters coming through the ranks:
Macheda, Evans, Danny Welbeck, Rafael da Silva and Fabio da Silva have all made their names already. Add Tom Cleverley (who can play anywhere in midfield), Javier Hernandez (who shone for Mexico at the WC), Danny Smalling (CB bought from Fulham), Craig Cathcart (CB), Richie de Laet (LB), Corry Evans (CB, Johnny’s brother), Joshua King (ST), Cameron Stewart (Winger), Matty James (DM) and Oliver Gill (CB) to the list.
Cleverley is one player who definitely has the potential to delight the fans at the Theatre of Dreams (Youtube his goal against the MLS All Stars if you want any proof) and Chicharito Fernandes has the pace and finishing ability to threaten any defensive line. Smalling played well whenever he was given opportunities at Fulham and should benifit from training with the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand for a couple of years. Catchcart, Corry Evans and Oliver Gill all have the hallmarks of good centre-backs while de Laet has has impressed Sir Alex during pre-season games this year. Cameron Stewart is an explosive winger who can play up-frontwhen needed while Joshua King is an able finisher according to former OT legend, Ole Solskjaer who knows a thing or two about finishing! Matty James is another interesting prospect.
What with the new ‘home-players’ rules that have been introduced in the BPL, more and more of these youngsters could be given chances in the league. Welbeck and Cleverley (along with Stewart, Evans and a couple of the younger lot) are all set to head out on season-long loans to Premiership, Championship and League One clubs and will all benifit from regular football before they can come back and stake a claim at OT.
Players likely to be bought:
Moves for Mezut Ozil, Stefan Defour and Jack Rodwell could very well be on the cards. Ghanaian Anthony Annan has also been linked with a move to the red-half of Manchester as has Danish keeper Anders Lindegaard.
And Finally, Man U team 2014:
GK: Tomas Kuszack, Anders Lindegaard, Ben Amos
LB: Evra, Fabio, De Laet, O’Shea
CB: Vidic, Evans, Smalling, Cathcart, Evans, Gill
RB: Rafael, Brown
DM: Annan, James, Rodwell
CM: Fletcher, Defour, Ozil, Carrick, Gibson, Stewart
LM: Nani, Cleverley
RM: Valencia, Obertan
ST: Rooney, Macheda, Welbeck, Fernandez, King